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Submitted on
August 17, 2012
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What I do isn't secret: Lion Study by Starhorse What I do isn't secret: Lion Study by Starhorse
The lion drawing this is over is public domain. From the Atlas of Animal Anatomy, by Ellenberger. an EXCELLENT addition to your library. I reference this book on almost every single serious drawing I do.

When people give comments like 'wow, I wish I could draw like you!' this is usually what I recommend: informed practice. (that's a fancy way of saying work. well, smart.) I think the notion that some people are just born with talent and others are not is false--talent is just liking something enough to not give up on it, and the desire to become better at it no matter how daunting.

So, this is the less glorious side of drawing: the long hours admiring others work is nothing compared to a solid hour copying. Admiring a picture is like waterskiing--you'd never know it if you skiied right over the top of the great barrier reef (I assume). If you scuba dive it though, or even snorkel--you're going to get a whole different experience of the same place.

This is a layover of a one hour pen study of a lion, from Atlas of Animal Anatomy by W. Ellenberger. I do the drawing as best I can, then scan it, and see how close I am. It's a brutally honest way of finding where I'm faking it, and where I'm doing all right.

This trick really highlights stylistic tendencies and preferences too: I like long limbs and graceful necks. I subconsciously raised the head, probably falling back on horse and dog anatomy: areas I'm a bit more familiar with than cats. Major weaknesses in knowledge showed up in the hindquarters more than anything: I beefed up the legs a bit too much, and gave a much more sloped hindquarters than the actual lion, which is probably because I had been looking at saber-tooth cat skeletons; notably, Smilodon populator which had long, strong forequarters (seriously, the thing was built like a tank) and sloping hindquarters.

After finishing the layover, I went back to my sketchbook with red pencil and carefully drew in where the actual silhouette is to mentally reinforce the lesson, and provide hard copy reference to fall back on.

Also posted on my blog

Underlion would be to W. Ellenberger, but he's dead. Thanks Mr. Ellenberger (for the beautiful drawing, not for dying...)
Overdrawing is by me.
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jezymania Featured By Owner 2 days ago
I was on the search for an anatomy of a lion as I want to practice for a picture, and so stumbled upon your picture. Apart from you good drawing - I like what you did B-) (Cool)  That is a great tip and animates to improve the weak parts.

Thanks for this cool idea Clap 
Sylvanimus Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow, you almost got it dead on!  I'll have to try this idea!
AguaRush11 Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
this is a great idea!
Starhorse Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2013  Professional General Artist
It really does help a ton :)
AguaRush11 Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I recently got an anatomy book. I will have to try this.

now if i could just find time. *looks around* :(
My-Mythical-World Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2012
A lot of it is work, but there is a matter of talent. I can study and copy all day but the next day my drawings still look anatomically off. Years of practice certainly help, but I think some people learn how to coordinate their brain's picture and their hands faster than others. Which is where the talent comes in. :) Anyways, well done.
sketcherjak Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2012
I wish I could draw like you. XD
rheall Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2012  Student General Artist
Excellent work, Star! I must admit, I don't do enough serious study like this, and I really should get back into it. People often don't realize how important a skill being able to do look-offs (as I call them) is. Translating what your eye sees to paper is the most basic of artistic skills, and it's funny that there are so many people out there that say learning from copying reference is cheating.

Love your drawing, you really did do very well! I found this book in an old used book store a couple of years ago and nearly went ballistic with happiness, mostly because I had only seen bits and pieces of Ellenberger's studies online that I used religiously. Being able to hold a whole book of them in my hand was awesome. Such a great resource!

It reminds me of John K., the guy who did Ren and Stimpy, who would get his students to endlessly copy and redraw drawings from old-timey cartoons to learn construction and all sorts of other lessons. He'd then take their sketches, overlay them on the original drawings, and critique each part all to hell. It's a really amazing way to learn (if a bit humbling!).
Starhorse Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2012  Professional General Artist
yeah, copying really is undervalued, or even berated. The only real issue arises with copying something and then claiming you did it (or just letting people assume you did) which, really, is most of the time probably an ignorance mistake more than anything. I think copying above all teaches self control--if you can't control your hands into someone else's box, then they're running you, not you running them.

Brains are always better at drawing than hands. :)
rheall Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2012  Student General Artist
Oh man, I can't control my hands for my life, despite trying hard to break bad habits! It's so easy to get stuck in a certain way of drawing, of using a specific curve to draw an eye, or a face, or a hand, and then letting those shortcuts rule my drawings. It's easier, yeah, but then you stagnate. Some of the exercises I did in drawing classes in art school helped a lot, be them drawing things upside down (if you're copying a 2d reference), or doing contour line drawings, negative space drawings, non-dominant hand drawings, and all those things. It really is invaluable practice.

Man, I have to get back into drawing shape... I'm so out of it lately!
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